The Mitchell Board of Education on Monday night approved a bid that would transform part of the Muth Electric Technology Center into a new student lounge, improving accessibility and security for students using the space.

The bid was approved at the most recent meeting of the school board at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School. The board selected Jans Corp., of Sioux Falls, with the base price of $299,975 and the option for $3,100, which would cover the addition of an exhaust fan for the kitchenette area of lounge, for a total of $303,075.

Other bids considered, including the option, were $313,500 from Tellinghuisen, Inc. from Willow Lake, $324,600 from BKM Construction, of Sioux Falls, $370,300 from Nu Age Builders, of Sioux Falls, and $385,275 from Visions Construction Corp., of Tea.

Completion of the new lounge is targeted for March or April so that this year’s students will have a chance to use it.

The current student lounge, located in the MTI Campus Center, is a spot in which students gather in their spare time, but the hours it is open are limited and there isn’t enough space for people to spread out around a table for games or other activities. The new lounge is expected to allow greater access and security for students who use it. Access would be available 24 hours a day through the use of keycards, and cameras would provide an extra level of security.

The board also approved the first reading of a set of new district policies to bring its policies concerning regular meetings, executive sessions and notification of board meetings up-to-date.

Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, said the changes reflect recent changes to state law by the South Dakota state legislature, but procedure for the district should not change in most cases as practices employed by the district already covered the changes.

The change to policy 223, which deals with executive sessions, adds an exception for security plans as a reason to enter executive session. It also adds language explicitly stating that executive session discussions must be limited to the reasons for going into executive session and that the motion for executive session include the relevant South Dakota codified law citation.

Graves said the change regarding security planning will allow the board to move into executive session for the reason of discussion of such plans and procedures, such as protocols during a lockdown event.

“You don’t want to share (that information) with a person who is possibly planning something,” Graves told the Daily Republic following the meeting.

He said the new allowable reason to enter executive session could be useful at times, but noted the board does not go into executive session often nor take doing so lightly.

“We’ve always found a way to deal with it without (going into executive session). We have a committee that works on that, and we have a board member on that committee. We process that, we share it with the board members,” Graves said.

A change for district policy 220, regarding regular meetings, adds the requirement that every regular meeting agenda include a time for public commentary. Graves said the district already employs this practice and includes the public commentary on its meeting agendas. The wording was included in another policy, but the board added it specifically to the regular meetings district policy.

The change to policy 224 adds a provision on supplemental materials supporting the outlined board agenda and the requirement that they be provided to all board members at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

In other business, the board:

  • Recognized Shane Thill, Mitchell High School assistant principal, as the Assistant Principal of the Year by the South Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals.

  • The board set a date for the joint city, school and county election for June 2, 2020. The seat currently held by Matthew Christiensen will be up for election in that election. The seat is a three-year term.

  • Appointed Neil Putnam to serve as the board representative for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota Legislative Action Network. The task of the representative is to monitor legislative issues in the South Dakota General Assembly as the session progresses.

The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 13 at Mitchell Middle School at 5 p.m.